When you live in a cosmopolitan city, you live with the illusion that life is only here. The so-called fact that the karachites cannot live anywhere else could be real for many of us. But, when you get a chance to be nearer to the nature, you need to correct yourself. With the entire hotchpotch; Karachi has become a city of pollution; where fear and violence linger every moment that you can’t even carry your mobile phones with you; where you leave for work, hours before to avoid any-time possible traffic jams and even then you fail; where calling strikes and sit-ins is no big deal while the uncertainty prevails at its peak. Now it’s not about jotting down only negative elements about your city, rather it is to discuss those elements, so that they can be discarded. My recent visit to Lahore and Islamabad with the aim to explore the cities this time around, made me to write about few things they have, which I would like to see in my city as well.
The moment, you land in Lahore, the earthy fragrance or better to call the Mitti ki Khushboo, grasp you entirely. In Lahore and Islamabad, heavy plantation serves two roles: A, to make the cities more green, clean and presentable and B, to make the environment perfectly healthy enough to breathe. Extensive utilization of tall and bushy trees really works, as if you are walking in a garden. I remember my first morning in Lahore, when the dawn chorus woke me up. In Karachi, the unpleasant sound of traffic and horns always does that.
Humble auto and taxi drivers
Sounds odd…but this is how it went. Lahore is a city of Autos and Rickshaws, while Islamabad is a city of Taxis. Unlike the arrogant drivers in Karachi, I found drivers in Lahore and Islamabad comparatively decent in terms of communicating and deciding fares. It could be for the reason that in Lahore, autos are not allowed in market areas and to get the right passengers, these drivers have to wait and literally convince the commuters to get their services. This practice also prevents people from any kind of nuisance that these vehicles can create in the market areas for instance, the Fortress Street, which allows more space to walk and shop.
Stop and get your Chalan
Islamabad is the national capital, where strict traffic rules and regulations and people even abiding by them is something, pretty obvious. The best part is a must use of seat belts which is something, the government should apply throughout the country. But even in Lahore, the traffic police are much more watchful. My own driver gave, Rs. 500, as a penalty on breaching a single when it was yellow. No short-cuts, no wrong ways. No need to mention the crazy traffic drama in Karachi, which certainly means, no match.
Take your ticket for the parking
One of the major issues in Karachi is properly planned parking areas which should have been at every other corner of the city. No matter its Lahore or Islamabad, a good piece of land has been allocated near almost every mall and shopping area, for the convenience of the shoppers. While, ban of autos and rickshaws allows more space to roam around and shops with ease. Isn’t it a relief?
Good to ears and lungs
No trucks, oil tankers, out of control buses and other heavy vehicles on the roads. This seems so good even in writing that experiencing it, would have been a far better practice. Ask me! Putting aside all these disrupting and problematic vehicles off the roads means, you can not only drive safely but easily. The whole Islamabad while major part of Lahore except the old Lahore works on the no-heavy-traffic-on-the-roads agenda. While, talking about the noise pollution, this is how we were embarrassed in Lahore, when a shopkeeper at the Anarkali Bazaar told us…bajee ji hamain pata hai aap Karachi sai ain hain tabhi itna zor zor sai bol rahi hain. Ahem.
Signboards all around
Karachi is a big city where getting to a desired place, unless you know the directions, could be a mission impossible. On the other hand, Islamabad is a small but confusing city in terms of heavy plantation along the roads; where finding the right direction is almost impossible especially at nights. Thanks to the proper usage of signboards at every corner of the road, you know exactly where the right direction is.
Keep your city clean
Bizarre but true. Can you even think of walking on the streets of Karachi without being disturbed by encroachments, carts or may be at times diggings? While, you answer the question in denial; the talk about cleanliness on the streets in Karachi, is out of a question. I will give all the credit to the authorities in Lahore and Islamabad. At the same time, it is also a fact that the sense of responsibility to make your own city clean, comes from home, which probably lacks in Karachites.
Lower rate of street crimes
This is probably the reason that anyone would think about living outside Karachi. It had hardly been two months that my brother lost two of his mobile phones apart from all his cash, when he started his job in Karachi early this year. My uncle was robbed in the middle of the Liaqautabad flyover by two men, useless to say, armed, when he was returning after getting his payment from a client. We all have our own stories of street crimes that occur after every second on the streets of Karachi. Islamabad and Lahore are relatively far blessed cities in this regard. Even on the vacant roads of the picturesque Patriata and Murri, you would feel utterly safe, thanks to the good law and order situation, at least in some part of the country.